water vs. fine literature


“High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water;

but everybody likes water.”

Mark Twain

(please excuse this interruption, but before i go any further, i must admit that i blatantly stole the image and the quote from Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s blog. go ahead, click on the image or the words and it’ll take you to her beautiful website.)

but back to my regularly scheduled post: when i read this quote by mark twain, it triggered a physical response.

i went and got a drink of water.

(ok, for serious now.)

his words eloquently and straightforwardedly (friday’s the day where you can make up new words) state something i’ve felt in varying degrees my whole life. if a stranger looked at my bookshelf, they might degree it full of “water” books and wonder why i’m not reading more “wine”. me and drinking wine are besties, so why don’t i read literature of the same sort? i say i love books and i say i read every day (i do!), so then why haven’t i or why don’t i read more serious literature more often?

probably because the main reason i read is for entertainment.

i want to be carted away from the doldrums of my life and placed in a world that’s shiny and silly and amazing and breathtaking and scary and vivid and different. high literature does have those things (and wine makes me feel those things), but it is too fancy. too convoluted. too proud. it feels like you have to walk on eggshells around big words and important political statements, and you know what? i’m not a big fan of reading delicately.

i like to gulp the words.

i want dive in and splash around in plot twists and sink underneath the surface and let the characters bubble up around me. i want to smash through realizations and bellow about relationships and make the wrong decisions and pick the right guy and figure out how the world around me works. i want to race through chapters so fast i can’t catch my breath and yet lay there quietly nodding in empathy. breathing and reading in and out. in and out. learning and growing and cheering and doing new things in fiction and real life (as a writer, a reader, and a human).

YA books do this for me. other books may do that for you and that’s why there are so many options out there in the world, so we can all be happy within the pages of a book.

so, while MY love goes out to books that may be considered more water than wine, it’s because these books make me laugh and grin and scream and shake my fist and wince and cry and learn and grow, but most importantly, they make me turn the page.


p.s. the irony of the “underage” YA book being marked as water just hit me. even if it was high fa-luting literature, it probably shouldn’t ever be considered wine.


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12 thoughts on “water vs. fine literature”

  1. Great quote! I love it!

    Thinking of books as wine book vs. water books is very interesting… But I can’t bring myself to generalize like that :) It’s so hard to slap a category label on a book and have that be the final verdict… For me it’s always on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes water is the best thing ever. Other times, wine is heaven.

    I’ve read The Da Vinci code (a water book if there ever was one) three times, I think. I’ve also read The Unbearable Lightness of Being three times. They satisfy such different needs that I can’t even begin to think of them in the same way.

    I wonder what a coffee book looks like? :)

    1. and there you go again, being all wonderfully articulate and thoughtful. you raise the bar with every comment. THANK YOU.

      also, a coffee book!?!? ooh, yeah, what does that look like? i guess it depends on if you drink your coffee black (poetry) or all souped up with cream and sugar (romance novel). oh, this is a fun game.

      1. Bah, articulate. I wouldn’t call that articulate, but I’m glad you thought it made sense :))

        This IS a fun game! You should do a whole dictionary! Oh please please, do a whole dictionary! :)

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